Church Bylaws

1/22/06

Section 1. General

1.A. Overview
Linebrook Church is an independent Bible-believing congregational church under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Christ alone is recognized as the spiritual head of this church. The membership of this local body retains to itself the exclusive right of self-government in all phases of the church’s spiritual and temporal life. The membership via its own authority and partly via authority delegated to the senior pastor and deacons reserves the exclusive right to determine who shall be members of this church and the conditions of such membership as mandated by the Bible. Linebrook Church seeks to make decisions and take actions as much as possible in a spirit of unity. Therefore, although votes may need to be taken from time to time, the church will attempt to be sufficiently prayerful and patient about all decisions that it may preserve the unity of the body and minimize discord. Linebrook Church is a non-profit corporation according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Linebrook Church recognizes the baptism of believers by immersion as the proper mode of baptism and welcomes to the Lord’s Table for the communion meal any persons who present themselves as followers of Christ whether or not they are members of this church. It is a seeker-loving church but not a seeker-driven church, meaning that it shall at all times follow the guidance of the Bible rather than prevailing cultural tastes on matters of worship practice and style. It is committed to maintaining the historical appearance of the Linebrook Parish building and will make renovations or additions in keeping with its historical character, recognizing that it is a privilege to continue a tradition begun by godly people who were led by a desire to honor the Savior in all things including the provision of a building for worship in the Linebrook section of Ipswich. The church is eager to support biblically based Christian education and will extend the use of its facilities to compatible Christian educational enterprises where feasible and appropriate. It is a missionary church, with a zeal to see people come to faith and grow as disciples of Christ both in the local area and around the world, and therefore it commits sizeable resources for the spread of the good news.

1.B. Statement of Faith
The sixty-six canonical books of the Bible as originally written were inspired of God, hence free from error. They constitute the only infallible guide in faith and practice. There is one God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, infinite in being and perfection. He exists eternally in three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are of one substance and equal in power and glory. Man, created in the image of God, through disobedience fell from his sinless state at the suggestion of Satan. This fall plunged man into a state of sin and spiritual death, and brought upon the entire race the sentence of eternal death. From this condition man can be saved only by the grace of God, through faith, on the basis of the work of Christ, and by the agency of the Holy Spirit. The eternally pre-existent Son became incarnate without human father, by being born of the virgin Mary. Thus in the Lord Jesus Christ divine and human natures were united in one Person, both natures being whole, perfect and distinct. To effect salvation, He lived a sinless life and died on the cross as the sinner’s substitute, shedding His blood for the remission of sins. On the third day He rose from the dead in the body that had been laid in the tomb. He ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He performs the ministry of intercession. He shall come again, personally and visibly, to complete His saving work and to consummate the eternal plan of God. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Triune God. He applies to man the work of Christ. By justification and adoption man is given a right standing before God; by regeneration, sanctification and glorification man’s nature is renewed. The believer, having turned to God in penitent faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is accountable to God for living a life separated from sin and characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. It is his responsibility to contribute by word and deed to the universal spread of the Gospel. At the end of the age the bodies of the dead shall be raised. The righteous shall enter into full possession of eternal bliss in the presence of God, and the wicked shall be condemned to eternal death.

  1. C. Vision Statement
    Truth, Love, Christlikeness This simple vision statement shall suffice as a mission statement as well.

Section 2. Membership

  1. A. Qualifications
  2. A member must be born again, having received, by faith, the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  3. A member must be able to clearly articulate his or her salvation experience.

  4. A member must have been baptized.

  5. A member must demonstrate a consistent Christian walk, including making every effort to tithe his or her income and to be faithfully involved in the weekly prayer activities of the church.

  6. A member must be in agreement with the bylaws of Linebrook Church.

  7. B. Process

  8. Each candidate, including those who come either by letter of transfer, or by personal statement of faith, will be examined by the Pastors and Deacons as to compliance with the aforementioned qualifications for membership.

  9. Upon favorable decision of the Pastor and deacons the candidate will be presented before the congregation where upon public assent to faith in Christ, and willingness to become a member and to live in conformity with the teachings of the Bible, the candidate will be received into membership and the right hand of fellowship will be extended. The clerk will add the new member to the membership roll.

  10. Upon favorable agreement of the pastors and deacons, former members may be restored to active membership.

  11. C. Rights and Responsibilities

  12. Every member of the church is entitled to vote at all elections and on all business under consideration submitted to the church at any business meeting, provided the member is present. Absentee voting is not allowed.

  13. Any member of the church is eligible for consideration by the membership as a candidate for elected office in the church if properly nominated by the senior pastor.

  14. Every member is strongly encouraged to exercise Biblical stewardship in the giving of tithes, offerings, talents and spiritual gifts.

  15. Every member is strongly encouraged to participate in corporate worship, Sunday school, weekly worship-prayer services, and the regular ministry activities of the church.

  16. Every member must realize his or her responsibility to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by serving this local body in the following ways:

a. Utilizing his spiritual gifts and natural abilities to serve in one or more areas of ministry in this local body.

b. Recognizing and practicing the Biblical admonitions of John 13:34 to “love one another” and of Galatians 5:13 to “serve one another in love.”

  1. D. Discipline of Members
  2. Definition of Church Discipline: The term “discipline” refers to the Biblical method of confronting sin within the local church body, according to the teachings of the Bible and the principles set forth in Matthew 18:15-17.

  3. Objectives of Church Discipline: The objectives of all Church discipline shall be twofold: for the spiritual good of the member(s) being disciplined, restoration being the desired end (Galatians 6:1-2); and for the preservation of the testimony, the purity and the peace of the church (1 Corinthians 5:1-6:8) so that the church always honors its head, Jesus Christ.

  4. Attitude for Church Discipline: It must never be entered into lightly. Those who participate in this process must do so with the attitude mandated by Galatians 6:1. Those involved in administering discipline do it with meekness and an awareness that they themselves are just as weak, and as capable of stumbling as the fallen person(s).

  5. Causes for Discipline of a Member

a. Demonstrating any persistent and unrepentant course of life that clearly contradicts the moral laws of God’s Word.

b. Advocating teachings and/or practices opposed to those set forth in the bylaws of this church.

c. Being directly involved in any impropriety, whether of a serious legal or moral nature, which could undermine the testimony of this church in the community.

  1. Procedure for Discipline

Any member of this church body who clearly demonstrates any of the aforementioned causes needs to be dealt with according to the principles set forth in Matthew 18:15-17 and I Corinthians 5:2-13.

a. First, the member at fault should be confronted privately.

b. If the member does not repent, then secondly, he or she should be confronted again in the presence of one or two additional witnesses.

c. If still no repentance is demonstrated, then, the matter needs to be taken before the board of deacons for action.

d. If there is still no repentance, the offending member must be expelled from the membership of this congregation and is to be treated as though not a believer, as the Bible requires. If he or she eventually repents, giving clear evidence of willingness to be held accountable on a personal level by other members, he or she may be restored to fellowship, and even membership, by a favorable decision of the senior pastor and board of deacons.

  1. Restoration of Expelled Members: The church may restore to membership any person previously expelled, upon his request to the Pastors and Deacons. Consideration for reinstatement to membership and fellowship will be based upon clear evidence of repentance and compliance with the conditions articulated during the discipline process.

  2. Termination of Membership: Termination of membership may occur by one of the following:

a. By letter of transfer to another church.

b. By any member uniting in membership with another church without requesting a letter.

c. As the final result of an unrepentant church member under church discipline.

d. By request of the member.

e. By death.

f. By non-attendance. A member who has had no contact with this local body for a period of 6 months or more may be removed from membership status by the deacons. An inactive member may not vote or serve in church offices or roles that require membership.

Section 3. Church Officers

All who serve as officers of the church shall be members of this church. The officers of this church shall be the Senior Pastor, any other pastors, the Deacons, a Clerk, and a Treasurer. Those termed “pastor” fill the office of elder as described in the New Testament. As necessary, the deacons may propose officers to assist these persons (e.g., assistant treasurer or assistant clerk) and committees to serve under the leadership of deacons to assist the deacons in their work. The term “deacons” includes all persons elected by the congregation as deacons as well as the senior pastor, who chairs the board of deacons, and any other pastors. The church may also designate persons to such positions as “youth minister” or “children’s minister” who shall function as employees of the church and shall not carry the designation or the status of pastors.

Section 4: Senior Pastor

  1. A. Qualifications:
    The qualifications of the senior pastor and other pastors are those given in Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1: 5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4. Candidates for pastor having been examined and found qualified and called to lead the church as an under shepherds of Jesus Christ, shall be held in esteem and respect (1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1Tim. 5:17-19; Heb. 13:17). The senior pastor and other pastors must meet the standards for an elder as defined in the New testament.

  2. B. Call of Senior Pastor
    Whenever a vacancy occurs the deacons shall function as a senior pastor search committee. It shall also be the responsibility of this committee to supply either an interim pastor or preachers for all services. The deacons shall collect recommendations and resumes of desirable candidates and after prayer and due consideration select those who shall come before the congregation as candidates.

Each candidate who is presented to the congregation will be asked to speak at the regular Sunday services on one or more Sundays. He or she shall be thoroughly examined by the senior pastor search committee and/or the congregation as to training, experience, sincerity, humility, character and beliefs. The candidate must be in agreement with the by-laws and doctrines of this church.

The deacons shall provide the congregation with all pertinent information concerning the candidate being presented and be prepared to answer any questions by the congregation. The congregation shall then be asked to vote prayerfully seeking the Lord’s guidance, realizing that God’s person may not always have the finest appearance or most impressive demeanor (Sam. 16:7; 1Cor. 1:26-29; 1Cor. 2:1-5).

Each candidate shall be considered individually and a decision rendered before another is heard. The Senior Pastor will be called by a 90% vote of the members present at a properly announced meeting. Every attempt should be made to provide a unanimous call. The candidate shall be notified personally and in writing as to the vote of the church.

  1. C. Duties and Authority of the Senior Pastor
    The senior pastor is the spiritual leader and teacher of the church and as the shepherd of the flock, nominates all persons other than himself/herself to serve as pastors (elders, as all pastors will serve in the New Testament role of elders), deacons and officers to the congregation, and performs duties pertaining to the office as prescribed in the New Testament. He/she will seek:

  2. To earnestly carry on a preaching, teaching and training ministry with the aim of bringing each member to a place of spiritual maturity and fruitfulness and to a place of spiritual harmony with the rest of the church body. (Eph.4: 11-16; Col. 1: 28-29; II Tim. 2:2)

  3. To set an example in Christian living (I Tim. 4:12; I pet. 5:1-3).

  4. To seek to discover the needs of those within the congregation and to do the work of an evangelist presenting Christ to the lost (James 1: 27; II Tim. 4:5).

  5. To be responsible for the overall actions of the church, being an ex-officio member of all church organizations and committees (Heb. 13:17).

  6. To propose salaries and benefits for other pastors for the consideration of the congregation. Pastors will receive at least four weeks of vacation time annually and may be excused from responsibilities on other occasions as well as determined by the board of deacons and/or the congregation.

  7. To chair the board of deacons and moderate the congregation at its business meetings. The senior pastor may delegate these duties to others as appropriate on occasions.

  8. D. Salary and Benefits
    The senior pastor’s salary and benefits will be determined by the church upon recommendation from the deacons and will be reviewed annually prior to the annual meeting. The senior pastor is entitled to up to eight Sundays per year of vacation time which should be scheduled and used wisely in connection with weekday responsibilities and/or vacation time so as to provide a continuity of overall pastoral leadership especially at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, times of typically high attendance, etc.

Upon approval off the congregation the senior pastor and other pastors may take a sabbatical leave of up to four months after seven years of continuous service.

  1. E. Termination of the senior pastor
    The employment of the senior pastor with the church may be terminated at any time by the presentation of his resignation in writing to the board of deacons or by a 90% vote of the membership.

Either party desiring the termination should give previous notice of 60 days. However, this may be waived by mutual agreement. The congregation upon recommendation of the board of deacons may establish severance compensation for the senior pastor or other pastors.

Section 5. Other Pastors

The church may employ other pastors than the senior pastor to help guide the work of the church and oversee the spiritual life of the congregation. These pastors shall be nominated to the congregation by the senior pastor after seeking the counsel of the board of deacons. Titles for pastors other than the senior pastor shall be proposed and established by the same process. It shall not be the desire of the church to see any sense of elitism on the part of its pastors, so, as desired and as appropriate, any of the pastors including the senior pastor may often simply be referred to as “Pastor So and So,” even in some printed materials, as long as the identity and roles of the senior pastor and other pastors are not artificially obscured thereby. The pastors shall seek to work in harmony and in close support of one another for the benefit of the Lord’s ministry in the church and shall seek to be unanimous in their positions on issues where possible.

Section 6. Deacons

  1. A. Role and Qualifications
    Deacons shall be men or women in full communion with the church, of mature judgment, unquestioned Christian character, loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ and meeting the qualifications of Acts 6: 1-7; I Tim. 3: 8-13 including being above reproach. They will be involved in caring for the church’s members and other persons in the community, helping to lead the church in performing its tasks as mandated in the Bible. They shall be responsible for preparing and assisting the senior pastor and/or other pastors in observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Deacons are nominated to the congregation by the senior pastor. The deacons shall also serve as trustees, legal officers for the church. They shall hold in trust any church property. Upon a specific vote of the church authorizing each action, they shall have the power to buy, sell, mortgage, lease, or transfer any church property. When the signatures of the deacons are required, they shall sign legal documents involving the sale, mortgage, or rental of property, or other legal documents as approved and instructed by the church. The deacons may delegate one or more of these powers to individuals among them as necessary.

The terms “board of deacons” and “deacons” shall be construed to include the senior pastor and other pastors except where pastors are specifically distinguished from deacons in these bylaws. The church should seek for a harmonious and unified working relationship between deacons and pastors in all aspects of the church’s life. From the point of view of biblical teaching about elders and deacons, the pastors fulfill the biblical role of elders and the deacons the biblical role of deacons.

All deacons will normally have at least one area of special responsibility in the life of the church (e.g., missions and evangelism, Christian education, building and grounds, music and worship, finance, et al), specific assignments to be allotted as needed among the deacons themselves.

  1. B. Election and Term of Office
    The number of deacons shall be determined by need and by availability of those who genuinely meet the qualifications. The deacons hold office for one year at a time. Elections shall take place at a regular business meeting. Immediate reelection of a deacon is permissible.

The slate of deacons presented for vote shall be provided to the congregation at least one week in advance of the meeting via a list compiled by the senior pastor. This list will compose only those who have been examined, counseled, found qualified and willing to serve. Election shall be by a 90% vote of the members voting.

Every effort should be made to give a deacon at least one year off after service for six or more years.

Section 7. Moderator

The senior pastor or his delegate shall serve as the moderator of the church, presiding at business meetings of the church including the annual meeting. In the absence of the senior pastor, another of the pastors may preside, or in the absence of any pastor, the clerk may call the church to order and preside over the election of an acting moderator for that meeting.

Section 8. Clerk

The clerk of the church shall keep in an orderly manner a record of all the actions of the church except as otherwise herein provided. The clerk is responsible for keeping a register of names of members, with dates of admission, dismissal, or death. The clerk shall also keep a record of baptisms. He/she shall issue letters of dismissal voted by the church, preserving on file the records of all meetings where such notice is necessary. The clerk shall be elected annually. The senior pastor may delegate some of the clerical responsibilities to a church secretary. All church records are church property and should be filed in the church office, when an office is maintained.

Section 9. Treasurer

The church shall elect annually a church treasurer as its financial officer and may choose to elect an assistant treasurer as well, who will serve as an assistant to the treasurer and will normally report to the deacons or congregation through the treasurer unless requested otherwise by the deacons or congregation. It shall be the duty of the Treasurer to receive, preserve, and pay out upon receipt of vouchers approved and signed by authorized personnel, all money or things of value paid or given to the church, keeping at all times an itemized account of all receipts and disbursements. It shall be the duty of the treasurer to render to the church at annual business meetings a report of the receipts and disbursements for the fiscal year, and to prepare such monthly or other statements of accounts as shall be helpful to the deacons or the congregation as they oversee the business of the church. As necessary and/or by request, the treasurer may meet occasionally or regularly with the board of deacons.

Section 10. Financial secretary

The church shall elect annually a financial secretary to serve with and alongside the treasurer, with special involvement in counting, processing and depositing such moneys as may be given to the church, and in providing receipts to donors as needed. The financial secretary shall provide such helpful mechanisms as donation envelopes, etc. for the use of members and attendees. The financial secretary and treasurers shall compare their records each month to be sure that they match in appropriate respects, with any discrepancies to be reported to the deacons.

Section 11. Finance Committee

The Committee shall consist of the Treasurer, deacons, senior pastor and other pastors and shall be chaired by the senior pastor.

The committee shall prepare the Annual Budget for submission to the church at the annual business meeting and any supplemental budgets or major expenditures (exceeding ten percent of the annual budget and not provided for therein or by vote at the annual meeting for submission to the church at a specially called business meeting. They shall supervise the raising of all money in the church and shall consider it their responsibility to promote in every way spiritual giving on the part of the entire membership of the church.

Section 12. Church Committees

All committees shall be considered sub-committees of the board of deacons and shall report to the board of deacons. Individual deacons may be assigned the chairmanship and oversight of committees as appropriate. Committee members shall be members of the church and shall serve for one year. They may be reappointed immediately. The board of deacons or the congregation in business session may form a committee. The senior pastor shall have the right to nominate members of committees, though persons may also volunteer to serve on committees as long as these individuals are members not subject to or under discipline of the church.

Section 13. Christian Education

The Sunday school shall be a primary organization for the teaching program and shall use the Bible and thoroughly biblical materials as its curricula. Its task shall be to teach the whole counsel of God, i.e., biblical revelation, reach persons for Christ (all teachers being encouraged to help their students see the importance of accepting Christ as personal savior), perform the functions of the church within its constituency, and provide and interpret information regarding the work of the church.

The Sunday school shall be organized by the deacons according to departments and /or classes, as appropriate for all ages. As appropriate, it may be conducted under the direction of a Sunday School Director recruited by the deacons.

Other organizations, programs, classes and study groups may be added at any time, such as home Bible studies and discipleship training courses. The goal of all such small groups within the church shall be discipleship, growing in Christlikeness, not merely socializing.

Section 14. Missions

This church shall be a missions-minded church, with every effort being made to support the outreach of the gospel of Christ both at home and abroad. It shall be the official goal of the church, paid close attention to in all budgeting and financial planning, to give to missions as soon as it can be accomplished 50% of all regular income from tithes and offerings, so that the church will be giving to the spread of the gospel in the same proportion it dispenses funds for the regular expenses and salaries of the church. Special fundraising projects such as building programs are not necessarily to be subject to the 50% goal, but even in these cases the church shall make every effort to set aside a percentage of money collected for a local building project or property acquisition to be used to support the same sort of thing elsewhere, such as in a third world country.

The church shall seek to support missionaries, both from America to other places or from the local area to other places, including nearby places in the United States, as well as to provide support for native pastors, evangelists and other workers in foreign lands, and to do so by providing wherever possible their entire support needs, thus freeing missionaries from the tedious and time-consuming task of raising support from a large number of churches. In those cases where full support cannot be provided, the church shall seek to provide a large proportion of the missionary’s support so as to minimize the tedium and time for fundraising and maximize a missionary’s time in effective ministry.

The church shall seek to keep its membership informed about the work of its missionaries, to take on the support of new missionaries from time to time as finances permit, and to provide a strong, ongoing prayer base for the support of missionaries. It shall encourage short-term missions trips by members and friends of the church and encourage persons in the congregation to respond to the divine call to full-time missionary service.

Section 15. Evangelism

This church shall seek to witness to Christ’s saving work and to spread the good news of God’s forgiveness and the possibility of eternal life everywhere it can, to individuals, families and groups. It shall take seriously the opportunities that may be afforded to invite people to visit the church, to love visitors when they arrive and to model love for each other so that visitors will know that the members of this church are disciples of Christ (John 13:34-35). It shall seek to have good relationships with neighbors near and far and via advertising, special programs, special endeavors and other means shall always seek to help others accept Christ as savior and lord. As a goal, this church shall seek especially to pray for the blessing of and salvation of (as applicable) the occupants of the twelve homes nearest the church.

Section 16. Worship and Music

This church shall provide weekly worship services on Sunday mornings and other services of worship with a special emphasis on prayer on Sunday evenings, as possible, weather or other circumstances permitting (For example, it shall not be considered improper to cancel a worship service because of severe conditions making travel to and from the church or mobility on the church grounds dangerous). The church shall be aware that the sole audience for worship is God, so all worship shall be directed to Him and not to the congregation as entertainment.

Following the teaching of the Bible that God enjoys and is honored by the praise of his people, this church shall provide and encourage a robust program of musical praise, characterized by enthusiastic congregational singing of hymns and spiritual songs, by vocal and instrumental solos and ensembles, by the use of organ, piano and other traditional instruments, etc. It shall welcome opportunities for believers with special musical gifts to come to the church as special guests and shall advertise such special occasions and concerts as appropriate for the benefit of other believers and the general public. It shall seek to teach and encourage persons of every age to sing and to praise God in every way that is honorable and orderly. It shall not encourage religious dance or worship drama, but shall encourage the formation of choirs, chorales, quartets, etc., whether instrumental or vocal or both. Because style of music is related to style of worship, it shall be the province of the senior pastor to oversee the content of all worship services, enlisting others to help him or her put together worship that glorifies God, is joyous, and draws those in attendance into a spirit of worship.

The church shall provide for the partaking of the Lord’s Supper approximately monthly, with appropriate reminders of the seriousness of this sacred symbolic meal. It shall also provide for baptism from time to time of those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ and wish to declare the same publicly by being baptized. Pastors may provide at their discretion opportunities for public blessing of infants and children but only believers will be baptized.

Section 17. Ministry to Youth and Children

This church shall seek to pay close attention to the needs of youth and children, with personnel and programs designed for these age groups, as appropriate and as finances allow. It shall seek carefully to avoid entertainment-based youth and children’s ministries, and instead shall provide discipleship-based ministries. Costs for activities and retreats shall be kept absolutely minimal, so that a family of modest means can have several children participate at once. It must not become the case that only affluent teens a nd children can afford to take part in the youth and children’s programs of the church. The church shall seek to avoid costly sorts of programs, activities, trips and events in favor of personal engagement with life in Christ and inexpensive activities that have a primarily spiritual rather than entertainment focus, and where the fun is free rather than costly. The church’s youth and children’s activities should teach and model an anti-materialistic lifestyle.

Section 18. Paid Positions

All paid positions shall be proposed to the congregation by the senior pastor and approved by the congregation in a business session. It is expected that volunteers shall do most of the work of the church, but it is possible that some duties originally performed by volunteers may need to become paid positions in time. In all cases the church shall follow the biblical principle that the “laborer is worthy of his hire.”

Section 19. Business Meetings

The church shall hold an annual business meeting in January on a date set by the deacons, for the purpose of electing officers, establishing the budget, making other decisions and enacting other business that comes properly before the church. Special business meetings may also be called, either by the board of deacons or by twenty members via petition to the clerk. All business meetings shall be held at the church if at all possible, and at times as convenient as possible to a majority of members. Roberts Rules of Order shall govern the proceedings. The senior pastor or his or her delegate shall moderate. Business meetings shall be announced not less than two weeks in advance, via the church bulletin, email, the website and other means as desired.

Amendments
Changes to these bylaws may be made at any regular business meeting of the church, provided each amendment shall have been presented in writing at a previous business meeting and copies of the proposed amendments shall be furnished to each member present at the previous meeting. Amendments to the by-laws must have a concurrence of three-fourths of the members present and voting.